Caterpillar digs ‘smart iron’ using Zuora

November 8, 2017

Originally published on

By Adrian Bridgwater

Construction equipment giant Caterpillar is using the IoT to build new foundations and create the age of ‘smart iron’.

The Royal Institute of Charted Surveyor’s Q2 market survey reports that 80 percent of respondents say that financial constraints have negatively impacted building activity, a 10 percent increase on the previous quarter. This is reflected in a decline in output for the UK construction industry, according to Office of National Statistics’ construction output in Great Britain report.

Machinery and engine manufacturer Caterpillar Inc. has been working to attempt to address cost management issues in the construction industry by using IoT technologies and linking them to apps from cloud software specialist Zuora.

Subscription business model company Zuora is known for developing applications designed to automate billing, commerce and finance operations.

Fatigue detection machine

Caterpillar’s new mission is to enable workers to interact with its equipment to gain insights into operational performance. This has led the company to open up its developer portal to customers, enabling them to learn from various aspects of its fleet – including Cat’s 500,000+ connected vehicles and machines. This initiative has also driven Caterpillar to develop a patented ‘face unlock’ style fatigue detection technology.

Linking data from connected assets to the subscriber platform in connection with Zuora, the company’s Cat Connect portfolio is helping to monitor, manage and enhance job sites in four key areas: equipment management, safety, sustainability and productivity.

To create what it calls a new breed of specialized services, Caterpillar is equipping its machines with the power to analyze a huge number of data points, which it then plugs into in its proprietary algorithms. Dovetailing this data-centric approach with a new and more automated style of billing is all part of Caterpillar’s strategy to bring a new degree of software engineering intelligence to its operations.

Blending machine performance data with information about the dirt, water and metal content in a machine’s fluid system, plus feedback from visual inspections, produces a more complete picture of the equipment’s health and how and when it can be operated.

Caterpillar digs smarter

Tom Bucklar, director of IoT & channel solutions at Caterpillar has explained how his team has been using Zuora to transform its use of data. Although he insists that Caterpillar will remain a heavy equipment manufacturer, the company has joined the so-called ‘subscription economy’, by digitally enabling its machines so that it can offer more service-based licensing deals.

“Today, we have the largest installed base in our industry with over 500,000 connected assets and those connectivity-based services are subscription-based services. Our relationship with Zuora is important to us because Zuora is helping us transition from a lot of manual-based subscriptions to fully automating that process,” said Bucklar.

Caterpillar has coined the term ‘smart iron’ to explain how it will now seek to transform the construction industry with smart machines, analytics and drones.

The core of Caterpillar’s digital solution is Cat Connect Technologies and Services which helps customers monitor, manage and enhance job sites in four key areas: Equipment Management, Cat Safety, Cat Sustainability and Productivity. Cat Connect also connects customers not just to Cat equipment, but to other equipment across a fleet.

Learn how Zuora helped Caterpillar in its transformation journey here.